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Georgians Vote in First Election Since War

For the first time since Georgia fought a war with Russia nearly two years ago, the country is holding municipal elections. About 3.5 million Georgians are registered to vote.

Georgians will elect 64 local government councils nationwide.

Tbilisi resident and small business owner Temur Manjgaladze says today's elections are important.

He says nobody should live without hope. He says he hopes that everything will be changed for the better and that he is a Georgian citizen, a resident of Tbilisi, and of course it is his obligation to go and cast his ballot.

Incumbent Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava is with the United National Movement and an ally of President Mikhail Saakashvili. He says if he is re-elected, he will continue to do what is best for Tbilisi.

"I want to go ahead with those projects that we already started," said Ugulava. "One of these projects, for example, gives 3,000 more working places, which is very important for the top problem of the city. So this means exactly much left to be done and the government is committed to do that."

Ugulava is seen as the frontrunner to succeed Mr. Saakashvili, after the president's second and final term ends in 2013.

But Tbilisi moderate mayoral candidate Irakli Alasania says the government needs to change.

"This is the first step to change the government, peacefully through democratic means; next step will be next parliamentary election," said Alasania. "And I do not think there is any ground in this city or in this country to have any chances of violent change. The people do not want this."

Whatever the election outcome, the head of Georgia's Central Election Commission Zurab Kharatishvili praised the process.

He says today the country and its people should be able to hold and organize independent and fair elections in order to be regarded as a civilized nation. He says we are facing this particular challenge now and the Georgian people and Georgian society will make it.

Mr. Saakashvili's party, The United National Movement, is expected to fare well in the elections.